[Sorry for the long gap between posts. The holidays were a bigger distraction than I had anticipated.]
So there I was, in Santa Monica, camera in hand, and the person who was going to be the subject of my film was nowhere to be found. But I had this rented this big honking video camera so I figured I might as well get a little practice shooting.
I should give you a little bit more background: At this point I was greener than Kermit the frog. I had absolutely zero experience. I had never shot a video before. I had never owned a video camera. I had never conducted an interview. I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. So I'm juggling the video camera in one hand while sneaking surreptitious peeks at the manual every now and then, and trying to discretely shoot background images of the various homeless people hanging out on benches on the Third Street Promenade .
It's hard to be discrete with a camera the size of a basketball. So this is what happened. Keep in mind as you watch this unedited clip that although I may sound calm, inside I am about as scared as I have ever been in my life. (Yes, I've led a sheltered life.)
That interaction was a revelation. Danny, of course, is about as floridly a schizophrenic person as you could ever hope to encounter outside of an institution, but the instant I overcame my fear and started to treat him with even the tiniest bit of respect, the gruff, scary facade just melted away and what was left was just a plain old crazy guy. Over the course of the next few years I would meet a lot of schizophrenics (mental illness is a major underlying cause of homelessness) but none as far gone as Danny. He always insisted that he was several billion years old and had no idea where he was born or who his parents were. He didn't like being questioned about his past, and so I didn't push very hard. I didn't get to know him very well, but I did know him well enough to know that at least this much was the truth: he was a very nice, peaceful, loving man. Or at least he wanted to be. The world did not meet him halfway.